A Canadian-owned company is trying to get Virginia legislators to roll back the 30-year-old ban on uranium mining in Virginia so it can mine a multi-billion-dollar uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County. But a new study from the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League warns the site – upstream from four major drinking water supply intake points – is prone to frequent flooding:
The report contains maps of Coles Hill showing the locations of three FEMA flood hazard zones aligned with Mill Creek, Whitethorn Creek, and the Banister River, all of which flow through the Coles Hill site. The maps show the location of three historic flood events that occurred within the proposed mine and mill site, including two on record with the National Weather Service, as well as the location less than two miles away where flooding associated with Hurricane Fran was videotaped in 1996. Another map contains date-stamped photographs demonstrating pervasive flooding at the site in November, 2009. Another shows the location of a spring and several acres of wetlands on the site.
The League’s report links evidence of flooding at Coles Hill with warnings from the International Atomic Energy Agency. IAEA contradicts many industry assurances that uranium mill tailing disposal sites are essentially maintenance free, stating, “There is no such thing as ‘fail-safe’ facilities for tailings management. Neither regulations, design specifications, nor management systems can be relied upon in isolation to provide assurance against containment failure: all three must be applied, in a framework of quality assurance and post-closure care and maintenance, to deliver a high probability of tailings containment security.”
A uranium mine site that would leave at least 28 million tons of uranium waste in a flood-prone area upstream from the drinking water for tens of thousands of people? What could go wrong?
Watch a video on why we need to keep Virginia’s ban on uranium mining after the jump, and sign a petition to show your support at KeepTheBan.org.